Can I block an illegal driveway?
It is perfectly legal to block an illegal driveway, but the challenge is, how do you determine if the driveway you’re blocking is illegal? That’s the million dollar question.
Let’s start from the beginning
The Driveway Definition and Rule
Let’s start with the definition of an NYC driveway and the rule that prohibits parking in front of it.
Every entrance or exit authorized pursuant to applicable law and used by vehicular traffic to or from lands or buildings abutting a roadway
The Driveway Rule
4-08(f) General no standing zones (standing and parking prohibited in specified places). No person shall stand or park a vehicle in any of the following places unless otherwise indicated by posted signs, markings or other traffic control devices, or at the direction of a law enforcement officer:
(2) Driveways. In front of a public or private driveway, except that it shall be permissible for the owner, lessor or lessee of the lot accessed by a private driveway to park a passenger vehicle registered to him/her at that address in front of such driveway, provided that such lot does not contain more than two dwelling units and further provided that such parking does not violate any other provision of the Vehicle and Traffic Law or local law or rule concerning the parking, stopping or standing of motor vehicles. The prohibition herein shall not apply to driveways that have been rendered unusable due to the presence of a building or other fixed obstruction and, therefore, are not being used as defined in §4-01(b) of these rules
We know a driveway is:
- An entrance or exit
- Authorized by law
- For chariots
- To enter or exit to or from lands or buildings
- Abutting a roadway
But, a driver can’t:
- Stand or park in front of a driveway
- Unless a chariot is registered in her name
- At the address of the driveway
This rule does not apply to driveways that have been rendered unusable:
- Due to the presence of a building
- Or other fixed objects
- And is not being used as a driveway (entrance or exit to property)
Or, an affirmative defense would be to prove a driveway is an illegal driveway
How do you know a driveway is an illegal driveway?
I would start with the curb cut. Was the curb cut approved by the building department? Here’s a link
I think it’s worth duplicating the content right here:
As of August 28, 2017, it is mandatory to submit all curb cut filings in DOB NOW: Build.
A curb cut is a dip in a sidewalk and curb that enables a vehicle to drive to a driveway, garage, parking lot, loading dock or drive-through. Before beginning a curb cut project, the Department must approve the proposed plans to confirm that the design meets safety and zoning requirements – and then issue a work permit. Construction permits for a curb cut project will have different expiration dates, so plan accordingly.
Other City agencies also regulate curb cuts. For example, you must have sidewalk and curb permits from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Construction Mitigation Coordination, and curb cuts must be installed according to DOT’s specifications. Contractors installing curb cuts must have a Home Improvement Contractor license from the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Curb Cut Permits & Your Project
- Complete the work permit application, and submit the required documents through DOB NOW: Build.
- Obtain the Department’s application approval.
- File for and pull all construction permits.
- Complete the work.
- Close the curb cut construction process.
Illegally Installing a Curb Cut
Contractors who illegally install a curb cut – and the homeowners who hire them to do so – can face OATH/Environmental Control Board violations, court appearances, fines, and civil penalties. These costs can add up quickly since illegal curb cuts typically have multiple violations that must be corrected.
Overview of Curb Cut Requirements
Proposed work must meet specific technical requirements. You must hire a New York State licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) to submit your curb cut permit application with the Department.
Minimum Distances from Sidewalk Obstructions
- Trees: 7 feet
- Hydrants: 7 feet
- Light Poles: 7 feet
- Street Signs: 7 feet
- Utility Poles: 7 feet
- Phone Booths: 10 feet
- Residential Zone Easements: 5 feet
- Adjacent Driveway Edge: Varies with zoning district
- Minimum Dimensions: 8.5 feet x 18 feet
- Varies with zoning district
- Side, front or rear yard
- Within your building lines
- May not encroach the sidewalk
Check out community zoning restrictions
For example, in Carroll Gardens:
Three homes were ticketed after the Department of Buildings’ inspection, a visit that followed a stunning report in this newspaper that many residents of Fourth Place between Smith and Court streets were violating city zoning, which forbids parking in the front yards along First, Second, Third and Fourth places.
Decades-old zoning designed to keep the gardens that give the neighborhood its name designates such front yards as part of the street and not the homeowner’s lot, giving the city oversight about what is permissible there.
Two homes were summonsed for illegal front yard parking. The third home was found to have an illegal curb cut.
“Parking is not permitted in front of the building,” spokeswoman Carly Sullivan said, adding that a curb cut is legal only if the parking area is on the side or rear of the home in question.
I’ve written a number of blog posts about parking or not parking in front of a legal or illegal driveway. But, this specific blog post addresses the challenge of raising the defense of an illegal driveway.
If there is a curb cut and it’s used for vehicular traffic to enter and exit the abutting property and is not rendered unusable by a permanently fixed object, your next step is to check out whether the curb cut was legal. If the curb cut was not legal, you’ve got a winning defense as long as you present the proper proof, properly.
The proper proof would include the results of your curb cut search.
Check out the diagram and information above that sets curb cut requirements. If there is a tree two feet from the curb cut, it’s not a legal driveway.